Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Tue Jan 3 2012

Crazy brown sludge

Last year I resolved to bring new pages to my critique group every week. Out of 50 meetings, I kept my resolution about 45 times. Sometimes I only brought 1 new page; sometimes I brought 20. (Okay, once I brought 20…) Point is, I was fairly successful, because it was a reasonable goal — one that pushed me to work hard and grow, but also one that I was able and wanted to accomplish.

This year, I have 2 resolutions in mind that I believe fit the same criteria.

1. Finish my manuscript.

This is self-explanatory, right?

Feb 5 will mark the one-year anniversary of quitting my job to focus on writing full-time. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t expected hoped to have an agent and maybe even a book deal by now. But life never goes to plan — and this process is notoriously slow — and I am not a quick writer — so I really should have known better.

But not succeeding yet is not the same as failing. My goals — awesome manuscript, agent, book deal — haven’t changed. They’re just on a different timeline. What exactly that timeline is, I don’t know, and I’m not going to make estimates anymore. First of all, I’m bad at estimating, and second, it’s not in my control anyway.

What is in my control is finishing the manuscript and polishing it to shine. So that’s what I’m going to do. And when I’m done, this book will be so damn shiny you’ll see your reflection in it.

(That’s sort of the point of a story after all, no?)

2. Encourage/stretch my imagination.

This goal is less tangible but just as important, IMO.

I’m generalizing here, but as kids we gave ourselves a lot of freedom. Sure, we couldn’t talk to strangers or cross a street without holding someone’s hand, but in our minds, there were few limits. A talking paperclip? Sure. (That was the heroine of one of my earliest stories.) A veterinarian movie star? Why not. (That’s what I used to want to be.)

But somewhere along the way, “reality” seeped in and turned all those fun, wild dreams into soggy mush that we were embarrassed to hold onto. We started judging our ideas. We said “no” to those bright, twinkling stars before we even let ourselves reach for them. We had to focus on what was possible. We had to be realistic.

I want to undo that.

I want to say “yes.” I want to re-learn that “childish” playfulness and ingenuity. I want to believe in the impossible again.

Side story: One of my cherished childhood memories is “cooking.” I used to take out this big blue plastic bowl and mix in whatever I could find. Water. Flour. Salt. Vinegar. Soy sauce. Food coloring. It made me feel so grown-up, working in the kitchen, making something.

But it wasn’t grown-up at all, and the result was a crazy brown sludge that no one in their right mind would eat/drink.

Of course, that’s not what I saw when I looked in the bowl. If you asked me what I had made, I would tell you, honestly, chocolate cake. Or maybe macaroni and cheese. Clam chowder. French toast. That crazy brown sludge could be whatever I wanted it to be.

And that is the whole point.

So there you have it. My new year’s resolutions, and a bonus memory to boot. 2011 was not always an easy year, but I’d say it was good, overall. I suppose I can’t ask for much more than that from 2012.

filed Reading/Writing
13 Comments
  1. Ben says:
    Tue Jan 3 2012 at 5:47 PM

    You can do it! Why? Because you’re driven.

    We’ll be freshmen in the same publishing class. Our books will visit each other for birthday parties and play dates. Fun will be had by all.

    Now get to work! *runs back to the word processor*

  2. T. S. Bazelli says:
    Tue Jan 3 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Happy New Year Kristan! I hope that 2012 is good for you too. I think it will be a good year. I’m staying positive. It goes a lot slower than I ever imagined, but you’ll get there.

  3. Laura says:
    Tue Jan 3 2012 at 7:31 PM

    Those are awesome new year’s resolutions. I especially like the creativity one. Sometimes I feel like my crazy hectic insane workload at school has brought me way down from that place where I can be truly creative again (stifled by all those physics problems, no doubt), but I still think it’s important to not let that sense of “anything can happen” get away from you. Oh! And I love your brown sludge memory! My childhood equivalent to that was a salad consisting of leaves from the front yard, and every spice in our spice cupboard. Talk about gross-it stunk up the whole kitchen! Thanks again for sharing :)

  4. Sonje says:
    Tue Jan 3 2012 at 10:10 PM

    You’re going to get that draft done! That’s going to be so awesome!

    And as always, I’m looking forward to following your journey this year.

  5. Amanda Kendle says:
    Tue Jan 3 2012 at 11:06 PM

    Stretching your imagination is a great goal. I’ve started thinking more about that now that I get to read books for little kids all the time – there’s no limit to what’s possible as far as kids are concerned and that’s great.

    I’m pretty sure 2013 (or because publishing houses take so long maybe 2014, but not because of you) will be the year I can walk into my local bookshop and find Kristan Hoffman on the shelves. (I promise to both buy copies and put the remaining copies in the most prominent positions possible).

  6. Jon says:
    Tue Jan 3 2012 at 11:52 PM

    Great post. Love the resolutions, I am stealing them!

    Seriously, consider taking an improv class. Working on crazy acting activities always seems to improve my creativity.

  7. Shari says:
    Wed Jan 4 2012 at 8:05 AM

    Love these.

    There’s so much about the publishing industry that we can’t control as writers – or, in ways, even influence – and while it can be so frustrating to have our dreams rely on others’ decisions, the way you approach is so wonderful. It can be easy to get caught up in how slow the process is, but why not focus on what we can do? What we DO do? What inspires us? It’s obvious that working on your MS brings that bright, shiny vibe to your life – and it ties in with your second resolution, too. I think when we write, when we listen to our characters, we automatically stretch our imaginations. It’d be almost impossible not to, in a way.

    All this to say – lovely, inspiring resolutions! I am cheering you on all the way and can’t wait to celebrate when your shiny book gets an amazing agent :)

  8. Sherrie Petersen says:
    Wed Jan 4 2012 at 10:42 AM

    I just finished revising my manuscript. Last night! Hooray!! So now I can move forward with the other one that’s about 60 percent finished.

    I like that you’re not making a whole list of things to do this year. Two resolutions seem like just the right amount to me :)

  9. Les says:
    Wed Jan 4 2012 at 10:47 AM

    Good luck, you can do it :)
    I dropped my own writing goals to focus on school and helping Todd with his, so I am fully settled into the support corner. If you need anything, let me know.

  10. Juliann Wetz says:
    Wed Jan 4 2012 at 11:24 AM

    I am totally with you, Kristan, on regaining that childhood freedom of imagination. It’s important, isn’t it? (btw- I really liked the talking paperclip idea.)

    I was also a child who liked to combine lots of ingredients into mixing bowls. You won’t be surprised to learn that all of my brown sludge was actually witch’s brew. :)

    I think your resolutions and attitude are fantastic. Your writing is wonderful and your publishing dreams *will* happen. Just keep writing!

  11. Alex says:
    Wed Jan 4 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Oh man, I remember that crazy brown sludge!

  12. Anthony Lee Collins says:
    Thu Jan 5 2012 at 7:53 AM

    These are good resolutions. I think it’s very important to finish things. When I was in my forties, it really bothered me that I had two unfinished novels (and no finished ones). I hadn’t been working on them continuously (I was a musician for some years, and wrote very little prose during that time), but still.

    So, I decided to finish them by my 50th birthday, which I did. This made me feel good, and also it means I have two novels which people can read (and — mostly — enjoy).

    I agree with the other, too. I’m starting a new project now, with no idea where I’m going, and that’s always exciting. Anything seems possible at this point. My MC will probably not become a veterinarian movie star, but she could (actually, I think I know what she will end up being, and it’s only slightly less incredible than that).

  13. Kristan says:
    Thu Jan 5 2012 at 4:20 PM

    Thanks, everyone, and happy new year to y’all too!

    Ben-
    From your lips (or fingers, really) to the universe’s ear.

    Laura-
    HAHA front lawn salad, nice! I’m surprised I never thought of that. Maybe because I never really had a front yard… (Went from a condo to a house where the previous owner bricked over the grass so he wouldn’t have to mow. :P)

    Sonje-
    As always, I’m depending on your support this year.

    Amanda-
    Hee! I sure hope so.

    Jon-
    Improv = the shiz.

    Alex-
    Haha probably b/c you often helped me make it.

    Anthony-
    Yes, “cultivating a habit of finishing” (as Laini Taylor puts it) is VERY important for creatives. I think I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the past few years. This particular project, however, keeps moving its finish line, lol. Ah well, I’m chasing it down!

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